This doesn't make any sense really, but stick with me: Apparently, when David Bang's restaurants get too busy for him to handle the flow, he simply closes them and opens up elsewhere. Rather than hire help in the kitchen, control seating times or even raise prices to thin the herd, he just shuts the doors and moves along.
Having operated three other Chinese eateries in Colorado in the last decade — one in Florence, one in Monument, another in Colorado Springs — he moved to just off Powers Boulevard in February to escape the latest rush. It's pretty much the most counterintuitive story I've ever heard from a chef, and it may not be true, for all I know. But the longer I talk to Bang on the phone after my two visits to Jasmine Cafe, I start to believe him.
Though pleasant, he's a little, um ... intense.
I ask him when he gets time off, since he's open daily.
I ask him why he won't look for more help beyond his wife and co-owner Amy, who runs delivery and serves occasionally.
"I don't trust anyone with my food."
I ask why his food tastes so good — the best Chinese locally, I'd wager, in solidarity with a reader who told me about the place in late October.
"It's authentic Chinese food, and every meal comes out from the owner's hand."
Don't fear the Po Po
Bang elaborates a bit when pressed: He's patient and his style is more Cantonese, from southern China, making it a bit less spicy than, but otherwise not too different from, familiar Chinese food. (And, he notes, Amy's father helps prep, while a diligent and friendly Indonesian gentleman who has traveled with Bang from location to location also serves.)
Whatever his methods, even his pad Thai plates ($8.25 to $8.95) are better than what you get at most Thai outfits in town. In our first visit, our meals are uniformly bright and hot, showcasing crisp vegetables, light and delicious sauces, well-textured meats, flavorful broths and even superior presentations, most notable on the Po Po Platter ($5.25 a head, minimum two people).
That's the best way to try a wide sampling of the appetizers, including egg rolls, cheese wontons, chicken wings, teriyaki beef and chicken skewers, and coconut-flake-battered fried shrimp, all arranged beautifully on a slotted Lazy Susan that towers into a Sterno-heated, cast iron mini grill for re-warming your least prioritized bites.
In the completely worth-it $14.95 per-person family dinner option, the platter comes with a generous portion of wor wonton soup and a choice between eight entrées, though we order one plate outside of those with no hassle or upcharge.
I counted nine veggies and three meats in that kitchen-sink soup, while marveling over how an elegant, clear broth could carry so much flavor. Both our Kung Pao Shrimp and Mongolian Beef excelled with great spicing, quality proteins, and no sticky or unnaturally colored sauces. These are classic dishes; you know what they taste like, but you probably haven't tasted them done so proficiently.
Back for lunch in the nine-table, neat dining room, where traditional Asian prints merge with modern, steel-accented lighting, we find an inexpensive lunch list that ranges from $4.95 to $6.55 and includes a soup cup, egg roll and fried or steamed rice.
We start with a plate of steamed dumplings ($4.95) stuffed with garlic- and green onion-spiked minced pork and served with a light soy sauce dip. Simple and good. Then, from exhaustive options — pork 12 ways, 15 beef varieties, a dozen vegetarian plates, and more — we pick a basic snow peas and water chestnuts plate and a fried counterbalance, the perfectly crispy General's Chicken.
The former sports a mild, nutty, savory sauce, and the chicken's crunchy battering yields to super moist meat that picks up the hot-pepper-amped brown sauce beautifully.
Lastly, we try an order of sweet buns ($3.25) that aren't house-made, but fun to eat and satisfying: golf ball-sized, chewy, Dim Sum-style dough rounds stuffed with mildly sweet red bean paste and colored to a pink blush under a green faux fruit-leaf garnish. We also got 10 Chinese donuts for only $2.99 that equate to well-made beignets rolled in granulated, instead of powdered, sugar. Suddenly, I wish my jasmine tea were a cappuccino.
I'm so completely fulfilled after each of my visits that I tell just about everyone I run into for the next few days about Jasmine Cafe. I advise them to head there soon, and that's all I can advise you to do, too, because I've got no idea how much longer the place will be around.
How long can David Bang quietly hide here?